Pen Farthing and animals left Afghanistan, Nowzad confirms (LIVEBLOG)

Kabul International Airport written on an empty
Kabul airport, file photo: Christophe Cerisier via Canva

Pen Farthing, founder of animal charity Nowzad, and his team tried to leave Kabul with around 200 animals. With donations, Nowzad was able to charter a private plane to fly out all staff and animals, but at the last moment, the staff was not allowed to enter Kabul airport.

On Sunday, Farthing and the animals landed in London, but Nowzad will continue to try and get their staff and families out of Kabul.

Follow the latest news on the evacuation of Farthing, his team and their animals.
(Liveblog has ended)

Sunday: Landed at Heathrow
The Daily Mail reports that Pen Farthing and his dogs and cats have landed at Heathrow Airport in London, England. Farthing reportedly took a connecting flight to Oslo to see his wife. The animals could be quarantined for up to four months, according to the Daily Mail.

Wildlife campaigner and spokesperson Dominic Dyer said the animals will be “met by a team of vets, Nowzad staff and specialists” who will be “caring for the animals that he’s brought home from Kabul.”

(scroll down for everything that happened leading up to this moment, latest news on top)

Saturday night: Farthing and animals left
“We are relieved to confirm that Pen and the Nowzad animals left Afghanistan this afternoon and are now safe,” Nowzad posted on Facebook Saturday night. “Our thoughts for now are with our staff and the many people and animals who have also been left behind. We will do our utmost to help them.”

The animals of Kabul Small Animal Rescue are still at the airport.

Saturday afternoon: Airplane landed
The airplane to fly out Farthing and the Nowzad animals has landed at Kabul airport, Sky News reported.

Another animal rescue organization struggling to get animals out of Afghanistan is Kabul Small Animal Rescue, founded in 2018 by American Charlotte Maxwell-Jones. They have been at the airport for four days with their animals, but their charter flight won’t make it in time. Their animals will die if they’re not flown out.

Wildlife campaigner and friend of Pen Farthing, Dominic Dyer, tweeted that they’re trying to help Charlotte.

Friday night: Farthing and animals at Kabul Airport
The Ministry of Defence Press Office tweeted that Farthing and his animals are waiting for their flight at Kabul airport. The tweet doesn’t mention the Nowzad staff. It’s also not known if all animals that were at the airport yesterday, are with Pen today.

Friday: Farthing will try to leave again
“What an absolute tragedy, which sums up the terrible way the American president has dealt with this evacuation process,” wildlife campaigner Dominic Dyer said in a video he shared on Twitter.

“What does it mean today (Friday). Well, he can try again, and we hope he will be successful, but time is running out. It’s going to be very, very difficult and dangerous. We hope he can get himself and his animals out,” he said.

“Is it going to be possible to get his people out, we just don’t know,” he added.

Friday morning: Biden changed rules
Farthing said on Twitter that two hours before they would have been able to enter the airport, the president of the United States, Joe Biden changed the rules to enter. They weren’t allowed to enter the airport and had to leave.

My mission has just ended
“I was inside Kabul Airport. I was 300 meters inside. It’s taken us 36 hours to achieve that. I had all my staff members, all the dogs and cats, 300 meters inside the perimeter. We’ve gone through hell to get there. We’ve had Taliban pin their weapons at our faces,” Pen Farthing told Ros Atkins from the BBC in an interview Thursday evening from his animal shelter in Kabul.

“We got inside the airfield, and just before the attack, we were told that Joe Biden had changed the policy on who’s allowed into the airfield. And so, my staff, even though they’ve been given approval by the British government, the Taliban wouldn’t accept their paperwork because they’ve been told they can only allow people in with their physical passport with a visa in it,” Farthing said.

We were forced to leave the airfield. That’s when the attacks happened, and while we were trying to drive back, we were tear-gassed, shots were fired. It was just the most horrific thing, Farthing said.

“None of this needed to happen like it did,” he added.

“The people in charge of this disastrous operation, and then you go all the way to the top to Joe Biden, the way he managed this withdraw. It could have been so well planned. You’ve got Bagram Air Base, which is one of the biggest airbases in this part of the world. They closed down two weeks before this. I don’t understand that logic. I truly don’t. And people are dying now because of it,” Farthing said.

When asked about what he’ll do now, Farthing had a hard time replying, visibly distressed.

“My mission to get them (his staff) out of Afghanistan has just ended because Joe Biden stopped it. I can’t overrule the president of the United States. He has said what paperwork that they need to obviously be able to get into the airfield. The Taliban obviously controls the outer parts of the airfield, so there’s nothing I can do,” he said.

“We talked to the staff when we came back here. The emotions that everybody had all came out when we finally came back here this evening. They’re telling me now that it’s time for me to go. They don’t think a foreigner is gonna be welcome here. They’ve asked me if I can get as many of the dogs and cats out with me, so…”

Nowzad goes back to compound
Farthing and his team are leaving the airport and are going back to their compound, wildlife campaigner and friend of Farthing, Dominic Dyer, tells BBC Look East Thursday night, according to a tweet from Sylvia Jackson.

Fight for animals
Actor and animal rights campaigner Ricky Gervais tweets his support for Pen Farthing in his fight, which is becoming harder and harder, to rescue Nowzad’s animals. Gervais reminds people why people Farthing will not leave his animals behind.

Plane cancelled
Wildlife campaigner Dominic Dyer tells the BBC that the original plane leaving from London to pick up Farthing and his team and animals was cancelled.

“We have an option in place in a neighbouring country to lift Pen, his staff and animals out of Kabul before transferring them to the UK,” Dyer said. But Farthing and his team need to be able to enter the airport before the plane can land.

Two explosions near airport
There were two explosions near the airport Thursday afternoon, killing at least eighty people. Farthing told PA Media that he and his team are fine but that it’s chaos.

His vehicle was targeted, and his driver almost got shot in the head.

Takes 24 hours to enter airport
After being criticised for not helping Farthing, his team and animals enter the airport, the UK Secretary of State, Ben Wallace, spoke out on Twitter that there are more people waiting.

“The issue has always been getting processed through the entrances. It can take over 24hrs. There is no point turning up with a plane until the passengers/pets are airside,” Wallace said, adding that “priority will be people not pets.”

Political game
“It seems like it’s a case of so near yet so far at the moment for poor Pen, his team and the animals,” British actor and animal rights campaigner Peter Egan said.

“Surely there must be some government minister who can make some difference here,” he added. “It feels a bit like Pen and his team are being played like a pawn in a greater political game at the moment. We need to get them out.”

Warnings of possible terror attack
British armed forces minister James Heappey said Thursday morning that there is “very, very credible” intelligence that Islamic State (IS) militants are planning a suicide bomb attack aimed at people gathering around the airport in Kabul.

Heappey told BBC radio that Western countries rely on the Taliban for security outside the airport and that despite the attack warnings, there were a large number of people still waiting there. 

Asking the Taliban for help
Farthing asked the Taliban for help Thursday morning after being stuck outside the airport. “We have been here for 10 hours after being assured that we would have safe passage. Truly would like to go home now. Let’s prove the IEA [Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan] are taking a different path,” he said.

Nowzad might finally leave Kabul
Wednesday morning, Farthing finally get the news that he can leave the country with his staff and animals, something he has been fighting for since the Taliban took over Kabul.

The UK Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, tweeted early Wednesday morning that Farthing could leave with his animals.

“Now that Pen Farthing’s staff have been cleared to come forward under LOTR [Leave Outside The Rules], I have authorized MOD [Ministry of Defence] to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at HKIA [Kabul Airport],” Wallace said. “At that stage, if he arrives with his animals, we will seek a slot for his plane.”

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